Scuderia Ferrari has confirmed that it took some risks to introduce its upgraded Formula 1 power unit this season, but at the same time admitted that it has been left in no doubt about the advantage it now has.
The Maranello team decided to wait and not bring upgraded 2021 power unit components in the start of the championship, before running them on the SF21 car in the second half of this season, so it could maximise development time due to the upcoming engine freeze that will not allow manufacturers to further improve the engines from next year.
The final go-ahead for the developments was given two weeks ago at the Russian Grand Prix, when Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc had to start from the back of the grid due to the complete engine change, but was the first to run the improved power unit. Last weekend at Istanbul Park, Carlos Sainz followed suit and started at the back of the grid, but was able to make a strong recovery through the field, despite a slow pit stop when changing the Intermediate tyres.
With Ferrari having seen an upswing in performance, as Charles Leclerc came very close to a podium finish at Istanbul, the Maranello team’s hopes of beating McLaren to third place in the constructors’ championship have been boosted.
For team principal Mattia Binotto, the extra power that is on hand now is a secondary consequence of what was originally a learning exercise for 2022. At the same time, the Ferrari boss confirms there was an element of risk in the Italian side pushing to go with the engine as soon as it could, rather than waiting until the closing stages of the campaign.
“When we introduced it in Sochi, the first objective was to try to increase our experience in the view of 2022. That’s why we introduced it as soon as possible, trying to rush it, taking some risks as well, but it’s all a risk assessment. Obviously for us it’s clear to get mileage on-track and do our own experience before 2022 where the power units will be frozen. For us, that was the key and the reason of that.” – he explained.
Given the close battle Scuderia Ferrari and McLaren for a place behind the duo of Mercedes and Red Bull, as just 7.5 points separate them, any extra performance could prove critical for the last six races of the 2021 Formula One season. Mattia Binotto said the power boost from the new engine was not huge, but it was definitely worth going for.
“It is giving us a small advantage, but I don’t want to quantify it on lap time because it is track dependent. It’s not only pure ICE power, it’s energy recovery, so it’s a bit complex. But certainly it’s giving us an advantage. If I look as well at qualifying with Charles, he had the fourth best lap time, and if I look behind him, it was very close. I’m pretty sure that a couple of positions would have been lost without that specification.” – the Ferrari boss concluded.